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Interlanguage Variation of Chinese Learners of English . D. Victoria Rau Providence University. Definition of Interlanguage.

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definition of interlanguage
Definition of Interlanguage
  • Interlanguage is an L2 learners’ multi-competence (Cook 1992, 1996) which has its own grammar (Selinker 1972) and is subject to systematic variation, as any natural language (Labov 1969).
  • The L2 target is the “standard” variety of the language that the learning community adopts.
chinese english interlanguage varbrul program table 1
Young (1989a, 1991)

12 Chinese adults

Linguistic variable: plural inflectional morpheme -s

Independent variables: developmental, semantic, syntactic, phonological

Bayley (1991, 1994, 1996)

20 Chinese adults

Linguistic variable: past tense marking

Independent variables: verb type, preceding segment, following segment, aspect, proficiency, social network, interview type

Chinese English interlanguage,VARBRUL program (Table 1)
current studies on chinese english interlanguage
Current studies on Chinese English Interlanguage
  • Phonology: (r) (S. Chen 2001), (th) (Chang 2002, Rau in progress)
  • Morphology: past tense marking (P. Chen 2002), article (H. Chen 1998)
  • Syntax: relative pronoun (H. Chen & Tai 2003)
current studies in taiwan
S. Adeline Chen (2001)

9 Chinese university students

Linguistic variable: consonant (r)

Independent variables: phonological environment, speech style, proficiency, L1 transfer

P. Vicky Chen (2002)

37 Chinese university students

Linguistic variable: past tense marking

Independent variables: verb type, lexical aspect, type of writing

Current studies in Taiwan
effect on english r internal and external factors
(1) word position (e.g., red, very, jar, bring, short)

(2) vowels following word-initial /r/ (e.g., river, room, rock)

(3) vowels preceding word-final /r/ (e.g., dear, there, your, door, jar)

(4) consonants preceding post-consonantal /r/ (e.g., bring, from, tree, three, crimson)

(5) vowels following post-consonantal /r/ (e.g., free, group, promise)

(6) vowels preceding pre-consonantal /r/ (e.g., fearful, short, yard)

(1) speech style (word list reading and story retelling)

(2) English oral proficiency level (high, mid, and low)

(3) how participants pronounce Mandarin (r) ([r]/[], [z], and [l]).

Effect on English (r): Internal and external factors
major findings of chinese production of consonant r
Major findings of Chinese production of consonant (r)
  • (1) The VARBRUL weights can be transformed into an environment continuum to indicate an acquisition hierarchy (Table 3).
  • (2) Speech style variation (i.e., attention paid to form) is stable across groups regardless of proficiency (Table 2). Word list reading promotes accurate production of /r/ while story retelling inhibits it.
  • (3) Mid to low proficiency and L1 production of Mandarin /r/ has a strong effect on the inaccurate production of /r/ in L2 (Table 2).
environment continuum
Environment continuum
  • Acquisition hierarchy of /r/ (Table 3)
  • Sounds occurring in heavier environments are mastered earlier than those in lighter environments (Bailey, 1973).
english proficiency and l1 production of r combined
Group A: High

High + /r/ (.98)

High + /z/ (.98)

High + /l/ (.92)

Mid + /r/ (.97)

Mid + /z/ (.90)

Group B: Low

Mid + /l/ (.00)

Low + /r/ (.10)

Low + /z/ (.06)

Low + /l/ (.00)

English proficiency and L1 production of /r/ combined
markedness differential hypothesis mdh
Markedness Differential Hypothesis (MDH)
  • Unmarked phenomena are acquired before marked phenomena.
  • Front vowels following onset cluster with /r/ (e.g., free) promote accurate production of English /r/ whereas round (e.g., group) and low vowels (e.g., promise) inhibit it regardless of proficiency levels.
  • Environments themselves can be in markedness relationships (Carlisle 1994).
chronological corollary of the ontology phylogeny model opm
Chronological Corollary of the Ontology & Phylogeny Model (OPM)
  • As IL develops chronologically, L2 increases, L1 decreases, and U (UG) increases and then decreases.
  • In the cases of post-vocalic /r/, the low proficiency group demonstrates L1 transfer or canonical CV syllable by leaving out /r/ completely, while the high proficiency group shows variation determined by the markedness of the environments.
  • High or front vowels (e.g., dear, there, your, fearful) promote accurate production of /r/ while non-high or round vowels (e.g., door, jar, short, yard) inhibit it.
low proficiency learners
Low Proficiency Learners
  • In the high proficiency group, L2 has reached a threshold that the position of /r/ does not affect its production accuracy, but in the low proficiency group, it still does.
  • Intervocalic position (e.g., very) promotes accurate production of /r/ whereas word-initial (e.g., red) and post-vocalic /r/ (e.g., jar, short) inhibit it.
obligatory contour principle ocp and markedness
Obligatory Contour Principle (OCP) and Markedness
  • The presence of coronal sounds (e.g., tree, drink, three) inhibit accurate production of /r/ in the low proficiency group.
  • In the high proficiency group, the most marked interdental fricative still inhibits accurate production of /r/ in three.
reordering of constraints
Reordering of Constraints
  • E. Broselow et al. (1998). The emergence of the unmarked in second language phonology, SSLA 20: 261-280.
  • L. Lombardi. (2003). Second language data and constraints on manner: Explaining substitutions for the English interdentals. SLR 19.3225-250.
emergence of the unmarked deletion of post vocalic r
Emergence of the Unmarked:Deletion of Post-Vocalic /r/
  • High proficiency group: Faithfulness >> Markedness
  • Low proficiency group: Markedness >> Faithfulness
imbalanced or informed design
Imbalanced or Informed Design?
  • The source of variation is linguistic (Preston 1996).
  • The range of several linguistic factors is larger than the proficiency level range, and the proficiency level range is larger than the stylistic range (Bayley 1991, S. Chen 2001, Preston 2002).
insights
Insights
  • (1) The concept of L1 membership should be clearly defined. Negative transfer is apparent when /r/ is substituted by /l/ in rock by Mandarin speakers whose L1 /r/ is realized as [l].
  • (2) The concept of L2 target language is not stable.
  • (3) Each linguistic variable has its own history, the meaning of which should be explained under its own sociocultural contexts.
  • (4) Speech community L2 norm: free, fink (HK) vs. sree, sink (Taiwan) for three and think (http://classweb.gmu.edu/accent/)
reconsidering l1
Reconsidering L1
  • Substitutions for English interdentals tend to be consistent based on L1: [t] for speakers of Russian (high ranked markedness), [s] for speakers of Japanese (high ranked faithfulness) (Lombardi 2003).
  • We should go a step beyond auditory salience and weight to ask why L1 substitution of (th) in EF is [s] while that in QF is [t] (Brannen 2002).
future directions
Future Directions

A more balanced design in interlanguage variation is called for.

Add a socio-psychological dimension to interlanguage variation.

Longitudinal studies based on the variationist model on SLA are absolutely needed to account for how a learner’s multicompetence changes over time.

attitude questionnaire
Attitude Questionnaire
  • Please rank the following five sounds, [s], [f], [t], [∫], and [θ], as in three and think, from 1 (most acceptable) to 5 (least acceptable).
  • [θ] = 1
  • [f]
  • [t]
  • [∫]
  • [s]
a theory of interlanguage variation
A theory of interlanguage variation
  • Empirically verifiable
  • Account for the existence of all the factors of variation (linguistic context, psychological processing factors, interlocutor, topic and social norm, and function-form relationships)
  • Address longitudinal process of SLA
  • Consistent in maintaining key theoretical distinctions
  • Psycholinguistically plausible and sociolinguistically solid